The gruesome act of ISIS, of burning alive in a cage, the Jordanian Pilot Lt. Moath Al Kasasbeh has shocked and horrified the world.
Therefore, the immediate reaction of the Jordanian leaders is being termed as justifiable anger and understandable retribution.
Soon after the grisly video of the killing appeared on the internet, Jordan swiftly executed, before dawn on Wednesday, Sajida al-Rishawi, who was convicted after attempting a suicide bombing, and Ziad al-Karbouli, a top lieutenant of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
It was in fact the release of this Sajida that ISIS had wanted, in exchange for the Jordanian Pilot’s release. But it was while the negotiations were still going on, and while Jordan was still asking ISIS for proof of life, that this video came out. Shattering the hopes of the pilot’s family. And horrifying the rest of us.
Soon, Jordan’s ruler King Abdullah visited the Kasaesbeh tribal family, in Karak, some 100 kilometers south of Amman, and Queen Rania too comforted the young wife of the newly wed pilot.
The pictures of the king hugging the father who had earlier begged ISIS not to kill his son captured by them, and the pictures of the queen hugging the young widow of the 26-year old pilot – they were just married in September 2014 – brought tears to the eyes of not just Jordanians, but to all those moved by this tragedy.
We are united in our grief, said Queen Rania as she walked with thousands in a huge rally in the city of Amman. The participants of the rally were supporting the government’s part in the international coalition that is fighting ISIS, and they were also supporting the new wave of airstrikes that Jordan launched on ISIS – under USA’s guidance – immediately after the killing.
There were rumours that King Abdullah – himself a trained air force pilot, and the current head of the air force – has personally flown a fighter jet to attack ISIS targets, and a government statement clarified that the King did not do that.
Jordan, in my opinion, has a very critical and complicated role to play in the negotiations related to the Middle East crisis. Its leadership has always been under attack, sometimes by war, and sometimes by humanitarian tragedies. I believe it needs all the International support that it can get.
In the recent past, Jordan has absorbed thousands of refugees from both Iraq and Syria. As a U.S. ally in the ongoing air campaign against ISIS, it had temporarily suspended its participation in the attacks, after Kasasbeh’s plane crashed in Syria in December.
But soon after the news of the pilot’s killing came out, Jordanian planes flew in, to bomb ISIS targets. The planes then returned from the retaliatory mission, passing over Kasasbeh’s hometown of Karak, presumably in a gesture of condolence, before landing in Amman.
Another country UAE too had stopped flying airstrikes over Iraq shortly after this pilot was shot down and captured by ISIS in December. Some reports suggested that the UAE dropped out because the United States did not have enough search-and-rescue assets in place to assist downed planes.
But now, on Saturday, it announced that it is sending a squadron of F-16 fighter jets back to Jordan, resuming its participation in U.S.-led airstrikes on ISIS.
There is a greater need for international coalition to stick closer and plan harder to combat the growing atrocities of ISIS.
The Arab outrage at the immolation is understandable, but feelings without concerted actions can take us nowhere.